A new therapy using antibodies in HIV patients was shown to reduce the presence of the virus up to 300 times, according to a report from Forbes this week.
The study was the first in humans after previous research showed success in mice and nonhuman primates.
“The findings of this study are very significant in that it is the first proof of concepts that an antibody-based therapy could be effective in controlling HIV infection,” Dr. Barry Zingman, medical director of the AIDS Center and clinical direct of Infectious Diseases at Montefiore Medical Center Moses Division and a collaborator on the study told Forbes reporter Tara Haelle. This new type of therapy could be used to replace or supplement standard drugs.
The antibody treatment was injected in a range of concentrations in 12 negative and 17 positive patients. After 56 days, viral loads had dropped up to 300 times in eight the positive patients who received the highest dose of antibodies.
HIV is difficult to treat because it is constantly mutating and creating new strains and the immune system cannot keep up production of antibodies to fight it. The antibody the patients got, called 3BNC117, is a “broadly neutralizing” antibody produced in 10 to 30 percent of HIV positive people. It’s special because they can target 195 out of 237 different HIV strains. This antibody takes years to develop naturally, and by then it it is too late to help fight the virus. However, if injected in a patient at a much earlier stage of infection, the antibody can target the virus’s binding site that allows it to invade cells and replicate. By attacking the virus at this stage and at this site, the antibodies prevent the virus from replicating.
The treatment has other potential applications outlined in the Forbes article including preventing infection in people at high risk of exposure. However, it’s unlikely that this treatment would prevent infection on its own and would need to be used in conjunction with other HIV treatments.
“A single neutralizing antibody is unlikely to sustain HIV suppression for a long period,” the study’s co-lead author, Dr. Florian Klein, an assistant professor of clinical investigation at The Rockefeller University’s Laboratory of Molecular Immunology said to Forbes. “Therefore, neutralizing antibodies are most likely to be used together with other neutralizing antibodies or currently available HIV medication.”